NASAA Notes: October 2023


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Pam Breaux

October issue
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October 4, 2023

How State Arts Agencies Are Managing Disaster

I recently joined state arts agency leaders for the NASAA 2023 Learning Series session, Leading in the Face of Disaster. We all know that unexpected disasters are often devastating for communities, and the arts community is certainly no exception. Whether we’re thinking about weather and climate disasters like floods, fires and hurricanes or about other kinds of emergencies, in the aftermath of catastrophe there are important roles state arts agencies can play, especially to help the arts community connect to resources and pertinent information needed to begin recovering.

Unfortunately, weather and climate disasters have become so numerous and intense that it’s challenging to name all those most recently impacted. Top of mind for me at the moment are our colleagues in Florida because of recent storms, our colleagues in Vermont due to unprecedented flooding this year, and our colleagues in Hawaiʻi because of the devastating fires in Maui. There are certainly others, and the current hurricane season steadily making headlines isn’t helping any of us rest easily. In each of these examples, state arts agencies are leading and going about the work of understanding and illuminating the impact of disasters and connecting the arts community to much-needed resources.

The participants in our discussion all have considerable on-the-job training, and I remain grateful that they shared the kinds of observations and learnings that they wish they themselves knew about before responding to significant disasters. Since the webinar is now available online, we can all learn from them. Our speakers included:

  • Emily Moses from the Kentucky Arts Council, who helped the agency navigate the twin disasters of western Kentucky tornadoes and eastern Kentucky floods;
  • Maida Owens from the Louisiana Division of the Arts, who focused attention on onset disasters, also referred to as slow disasters;
  • Mary Eileen Fouratt of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, who experienced Superstorm Sandy and now leads the agency’s emergency management efforts; and
  • Gary Gibbs, executive director of the Texas Commission on the Arts, who led the agency’s response to several storms, including Tropical Storm Imelda’s extreme flooding that produced 43 inches of rain in the Houston area.

Our speakers shared valuable perspectives, learning and resources that can help prepare state arts agencies to respond to disasters. Please check out the webinar and its related resources. I know you’ll join me in thanking our speakers for their leadership in this space and for sharing their knowledge with us.

Please also note that the National Coalition for Arts Preparedness and Emergency Response produced a field guide designed to demystify navigating federal resources for disaster management. Funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and Mellon Foundation, it’s an important guide available to assist folks in the arts and culture field in this often confusing space.

In this Issue

From the President and CEO

State to State

Legislative Update

The Research Digest

Announcements and Resources

More Notes from NASAA




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